God On The Rocks
By Jane Gardam
First published 1978, Hamish Hamilton
My Copy: Abacus, 1981
I’ve moved back in time a little for my next review, as the publishing details suggests, back some 35 years. I have found myself in a world habited by a religious zealot, an unhappy wife, a maid, (common of course, from ‘way up north’), a confused child and sundry characters who are introduced as the plot unravels. Sounds difficult to grasp? Well, it certainly isn’t.
It is a very easy book to read, once you have transported your mind back to the writing styles of the late ‘70’s, and then back to the timeline being written about in the story, the mid 1920’s. We are left to discover the time in which the story takes place, which is o.k. as long as we are not being left to discover where the story takes place. Clever wording brings clarity to both of these questions fairly early on, but not soon enough for my liking. It will help as well, if you are from the U.K. or are familiar with English accents; the dialect of one of the characters is important to grasp, otherwise her involvement in the plot line loses some of its relevance. And, we are led up a garden path quite early on. Just as you think you are meeting the main protagonist, emphasis switches. Still with me?...
So, we have a story with some looking back, in a nostalgic fashion, some with regrets, some looking forward, wondering if it will be still as confusing as an adult. Add into the mix a father with stern religious views, a house full of mentally ill, an aged, vindictive but regretful elderly lady who doesn’t see her two adult children, and we have the backbone of this short novel.
I am amazed that all these strands can come together in such a few pages, but they do and it works. The title of the book works in two ways – that will make sense if you choose to read this book. God is indeed on the rocks, in the literal sense, and God is certainly rocking in the stability stakes; as are many of the characters. But, along with my amazement, I find myself sitting here thinking just how good a story it is.
In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is told in a lively fashion, sharply written and it is a page turner. I read it in a very short time, and my mind was kept alert at all times. I would recommend this with the caveat that if you are less familiar with the foibles of the English and their ways, you might just find yourself struggling to grasp the nuances of the text.
BookerBookBloke verdict 7(and a bit) out of 10
Why not try my short story about the life of Florence Nightingale. It can be found at:
or what about the final night of Guy Fawkes before his death. That can be found at: